HS Football Playoff Previews: Road to state starts for five local teams


XENIA — Friday will be one of the busiest nights of playoff football Greene County has experienced.

A record five teams have qualified into the OHSAA postseason. Bellbrook, Greeneview and Xenia are regular fixtures as all have made it for at least the past four years.

Cedarville is trying to join that group now having made it in consecutive seasons after not having qualified since 2013.

While those teams have all gotten to experience the playoffs previously, it will be Fairborn getting its first taste of the pageantry of playoff football this week.

The Skyhawks are in for the first time in school history. Fairborn was eligible along with all other Ohio schools during the shortened 2020 season, but had to cancel its game with Cincinnati Withrow due to a COVID outbreak.

Now Fairborn has qualified in due to its own performance, assuring its spot with a week 10 win, and are set to create history.

The playoff format created by the OHSAA sees the first two rounds played at the home site of the higher seeded team, with neutral sites beginning in the regional semifinals, which is the third round. All games through the state finals are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Friday nights.

D-III, R12 — No. 9 Bellbrook (7-3) at No. 8 Wilmington (8-2)

The Golden Eagles are winners of five straight have steadily won by an average of more than four touchdowns.

While the defense has played well, the Bellbrook offense began to turn it on by averaging nearly 400 yards and 40 points per game after a slow start. Bellbrook has no problem moving the ball a few yards at a time, but are hitting home runs regularly.

Wilmington gave Clinton Massie, the state’s No. 1 ranked team in D-IV, its closest game of the season in a 17-14 defeat.

The Hurricane defense has been tough to score against. Bryson Schutte and Jesse Keith both have accumulated more than 100 tackles, and Malachi Cumberland and Donavon Perdue both are in the top-five for sacks in the SBAAC.

Wilmington boasts an offense about as balanced as you can get, averaging 186 yards rushing and just one fewer yard passing.

Wilmington beat Ross 36-34 earlier this season, while Bellbrook won a matchup against the Rams by 24 points last week.

The winner faces either No. 16 Goshen or No. 1 Hamilton Badin in the next round.

D-VII, R28 — No. 9 Lehman Catholic (7-3) at No. 8 Cedarville (7-3)

Cedarville enters the postseason with its best record since 2013. Although the offense hasn’t been as explosive down the stretch, the Indians’ defense has stood all season and led the Ohio Heritage Conference in scoring against.

All three of the team’s losses have come when allowing more than 20 points.

The Cavaliers finished third in the Three Rivers Conference and come into the postseason red-hot. Lehman Catholic has won its last three game by an average margin of 40 points and overall average 41 points per game.

Donovan O’Leary led the TRC in passing as a dual threat quarterback, also finishing third in rushing yardage to accumulate more than 3,000 yards and scored 23 rushing touchdowns.

On defense, Turner Lachey joined O’Leary as the team leaders in interceptions with four.

The Cavaliers lost against Southeastern 30-21 in week two, the only common opponent between the two teams.

The winner faces either No. 16 Tri-County North or No. 1 Marion Local in the next round.

D-II, R8 — No. 13 Fairborn (4-6) at No. 4 Northmont (6-4)

The Skyhawks have been the comeback kids during its 3-2 finish to close the regular season. Fairborn trailed Xenia, Greenville and Piqua in the fourth quarter of each game and scored the go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes remaining against them all.

The final one with just 19 seconds left against Piqua assured Fairborn will play in the D-II, R8 playoffs where a formidable opponent awaits.

Northmont had been classified into D-I for many years before dropping down this season. The Thunderbolts went 3-4 in the GWOC, but three of its losses were by fewer than a touchdown and they beat second-place Wayne.

After having been the highest scoring team in the GWOC, Springfield held Northmont to just three points a week ago in the first time they failed to score a touchdown this season.

Northmont’s offense has been stellar though. Cahke’ Cortner is second in the league in passing yardage with 1,928, with Dalin Wilkins as his top target and the league leader at 628. Calilien Grant finished second in rushing yardage. On the other side of the ball, Djaun Sales was second in total tackles and sacks for GWOC players this season.

The winner faces either No. 12 Sidney or No. 5 Harrison in the next round.

D-V, R20 — No. 10 Greeneview (7-3) at No. 7 Northeastern (7-3)

The Rams are in the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years. Wins are tough to come by at this time of year, but the Rams have done well going 5-3 in the first round during this stretch.

Northeastern lost to a strong Riverside squad early in the season and has been one of the better defensive squads in the OHC. They proved that by becoming the only team to beat West Jefferson by holding them scoreless over the final three quarters during a 21-13 upset last week.

Jackson Jones eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards while averaging 7.7 yards per carry this season. Cody Houseman leads the league in tackles with 113 and has four sacks and nine tackles for loss as well.

The league foes met last season in Jamestown as the Jets became the only team to beat the Rams during the regular season when Greeneview failed to convert a two-point conversion attempt in overtime.

The winner faces either No. 15 Carlisle or No. 2 Waynesville in the next round.

D-II, R8 — No. 10 Xenia (5-5) at No. 7 Lima Senior (8-2)

The Buccaneers have moved the ball well and started games on the right foot. The lack of consistency following ths starts has played a large role in the team limping into the playoffs having dropped five of its last six.

Xenia’s Gavin McManus ended the regular season atop the MVL’s passing leaderboard, and Elijah Johnson is second in rushing. The offense overally though is averaging fewer than two touchdowns per game in its losses.

Lima Senior enters the game as winners in seven straight contests and champions of the Toledo City League, the first league title since 1996 for the Spartans.

Janiaus Hall has thrown 41 touchdown passes this season, with Zaveon Garner and Chance Sanders as his two leading targets.

The Spartans opened its season with a 36-31 win over Piqua as the lone common opponent between the two teams.

The winner faces either No. 15 Stebbins or No. 2 Troy in the next round.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.

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